FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
4 P.M. EDT, Melbourne, FL, February 4, 2013
Contact: Trish Oliva, Executive Director
A story about human trafficking aired by WFLA in Pinellas County on Friday, February 1, 2013 contained erroneous information about homeschooling and homeschooled students. Below is the formal letter prepared by FPEA and sent to WFLA today by email and traditional mail. FPEA has requested an on-air retraction to be made to correct the unsubstantiated statements.
Dear News Editor,
This letter is in response to your airing of a news report on incidents of human trafficking in the Tampa Bay area (at the time this letter is being written, a link to your report may be found at http://www2.tbo.com/news/news/2013/feb/01/victims-helping-in-effort-to-curb-human-45058-vi-31190. The FPEA, which is the principal organization representing homeschooling families all across Florida, agrees that human trafficking is a critical issue facing our society and that criminal activity must be exposed, especially when it targets the most innocent victims among us. However, we are greatly troubled by the information at the end of the report that names homeschooling as a potential indicator of human trafficking activity.
At the end of the piece, the reporter states that homeschooled children are among those identified by the Department of Homeland Security as possible victims of human trafficking. However, a DHS list of indicators of human trafficking activity, which can be accessed at http://www.dhs.gov/human-trafficking-indicatorsnever mentions homeschooled children. We are concerned about where the reporter received such inaccurate, misleading information about home education.
In addition, the end of the report includes a comment about “homeschooled children who are not allowed to interact with others in their peer group.” This statement feeds into a stereotypical misconception of the social maturity of homeschooled students. Many studies, including one by the National Home Education Research Institute (http://www.nheri.org/research/research-facts-on-homeschooling.html), show that home-educated students perform above average in measures of social, emotional and psychological development.
Since your report aired, we have received comments from many of the thousands of families that are members of the FPEA, including those who live outside your broadcast area and saw the report online. Like us, they find the references to homeschooling in your report to be misleading, inaccurate and irresponsible. The comments unfairly malign the reputation of homeschoolers, who in fact make up some of the most responsible members of our society. It is especially troubling that a news outlet of your stature in the Tampa Bay area and beyond would make such a statement during what was declared National School Choice Week.
We respectfully request that you make an on-air retraction of the inaccurate, misleading information about homeschooling in your otherwise timely, necessary report, as well as post the retraction across other media platforms. Thank you for your attention to this, and the FPEA looks forward to seeing more accurate portrayals of home education in your future reporting.
On behalf of the FPEA Board of Directors,